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Facial masks against coronaviruses "could have a devastating effect on the environment"

Disposable masks discarded to protect against the spread of coronavirus could cause significant environmental damage.

The environmental group OceansAsia carried out a recent study trip to the Soko Islands in Hong Kong where it found masses of surgical masks stranded on the shore.

Gary Stokes, founder of OceanAsia, told Energy Live News: "We found 70 masks thrown less than 100 yards from the beach and 30 more masks when we returned a week later. Over time, the team saw the strange mask here and now, but this time, they were all along the high tide line and foreshore with new arrivals. When you suddenly have a population of seven million people wearing one to two masks a day, the amount of waste generated will be substantial.

“The masks weren't that old, some looked almost new, which meant they weren't in the water long. "



Teale Phelps Bondaroff, director of research at OceansAsia, told Energy Live News: "A mask ingested by a local turtle, pink dolphin or endless porpoise, for example, could easily get caught in the digestive system of this animal. , thus killing him.

“Most of these masks contain or are made of polypropylene, which does not break down quickly. Marine plastic pollution is a serious problem. It is estimated that more than eight million tonnes of plastic enters our oceans each year. This plastic does not disappear but rather decomposes slowly into micro-plastic, which penetrates into food chains, with a devastating effect.

"Estimates suggest that more than 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and more than one million seabirds are killed by marine plastic each year. Marine plastic adsorbs toxins, which poisons animals that accidentally ingest it. "


The firm notes that people should consult their local authorities to find out about the proper ways to properly dispose of surgical masks and notes that the surge in mask-based waste highlights "serious weaknesses in waste management." and public education. "